History of Royal Johannesburg Golf Club
Founded on 6 November 1890, members of the Johannesburg Golf Club first began playing “behind Hospital Hill”, in the area that later became known as Clarendon Circle and Empire Road. The search for more suitable land, and the rapid development of the city, caused the club to move no less than four times, before finally being established in 1909 on the land it still occupies today.
During a visit to Johannesburg in 1930, the Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VIII, played the course. Some six months later, he agreed to become its patron. In July 1931, a letter was received confirming that King George V had graciously consented to adding the “Royal” prefix to the club’s name.
In 1933, the founding fathers recognised the need for a second course, resulting in the purchase of a suitable farm to the east. Just two years later, the club professional, Robert Grimsdell, had constructed 21 new holes, and both courses were in play. No sooner had he completed this onerous task, than he was asked what alterations would be required to accommodate a new clubhouse to be built in more central position. By the third Saturday of March 1939, the present clubhouse, and the “East” and “West” courses, were officially taken into use.
The Royal Johannesburg can claim to have led the development of golf in the former Transvaal. Almost single-handedly, its members founded the Transvaal Golf Union, and ably administered it for the first 25 years.
A standing trophy, first presented in 1895 to the winning amateur of its “Christmas Tournament”, is still in use today as the “Challenge Cup”: won by the top regional amateur golfer.
History of The Kensington Golf Club
Kensington will be fondly remembered by a host of South African golfers as the venue where many significant tournaments and competitions were played, particularly in the 60s, 70s and 80s. It will also be long remembered as one of the finest recreational golf courses of its time. It seems natural then that the name should live on in the equally prestigious surroundings of the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club of today.
Little is known of the original Kensington Golf Club that closed its doors in 1918, after fighting valiantly to overcome difficult times and frequent setbacks. It is said that the majority of members migrated to Parkview. But within a relatively short space of time, certain residents in the area threw in their lot with another Kensington Club, one more devoted to tennis and bowls, and established a 9-hole course.
The late T.P. Gray, then captain of the golfing section of the club, almost single-handedly acquired the site on which the Kensington course was to be situated. Having identified a piece of land described as a wilderness of “sluit”, “donga”, bog and coarse grass, he negotiated its price down from £100 to £15 per acre. Gray then had the further audacity to borrow the full purchase price from the seller, Mr. Oliver, who appears by far to have been the club’s most generous benefactor.
A company was then formed which sold shares to a fast growing body of members. The proceeds were used to establish the new layout. At their first independent meeting it was agreed that, as a mark of appreciation for all the help that they had received from the Kensington Estates, they should call themselves the Kensington Golf Club.